Game: The Castles of Burgundy
Designer: Stefan Feld
The Castles of Burgundy is a 2-4 player dice allocation game in which you play a lord building up their kingdom. The game consists of 5 rounds, each of 5 phases for 25 turns in total, the knowledge of how much time you have left to develop is useful in a strategic game, but also there is a race element. There are substantial rewards for completing sections of your kingdom, and these rewards decrease as time goes by.
Each turn you will roll your two dice, then, in turn order, players use their dice to perform actions. The majority of the central board consists of a market split into 7 locations, one for each face of the dice and one that exclusively trades in silverlings, the games currency. You can use a dice to claim a tile which is then stored on your player board. You can also use dice to build the tiles, so long as the dice matches the number on the space on your board, you have to build adjacent to existing tiles so you can often be limited in choice of where to build, additionally the player boards are zoned out; you can’t build a city in river, or a boat in a field!
Dice can also be spent to sell goods that you acquire throughout the game, and to obtain workers, which let you manipulate dice results. The workers are probably what save this game for me, without them there would be too much luck involved in every turn. But if you get a string of bad rolls in The Castles of Burgundy, so long as you spend one of them to get workers, you can turn them in to good rolls! In addition, many of the tiles you place give you an extra action or ability to further remove reliance on luck of the die.
|The player board near the end of a game, the player boards are double sided, so everyone can have their own unique layout, or everyone can have the same and be on an even footing.|
The balance between dice luck and being able to counter it is really well implemented, sure you can have a couple of bad rolls, but the game is fast paced and consists of a fixed 25 quick turns, so even when luck hates you you’ll soon have another chance. So long as you are willing to keep a flexible strategy then the dice almost don’t matter. To help with this many tiles have bonuses when you build them, building towns will give you extra money, workers and free tiles, building castles gives you an extra action as if you had a third dice on any face and building and finally the yellow bonus tiles can give you a whole range of effects, from end game scoring to bonuses to more potency on certain actions for the rest of the game.
It’s hard to fully explain how well designed The Castle of Burgundy is, you never feel like the game is conspiring against you or like you don’t have the ability to keep up with everyone else. Every problem you face is because you didn’t prevent it and every success is because you earned it. This results in a game that is incredibly satisfying win or lose. The varying maps and tiles add to replayability and the game plays lightning fast with 2 players. For a game that I had absolutely no expectations for, The Castles of Burgundy is now one of my all time favourites!